Let's get typical! Common strategy scenarios and results

Julie Vollenweider

When I speak with folks about possible content strategy projects, it usually doesn’t take too long for the “Tell me about a typical project” topic to come up. In a consulting environment, most people understand that this is a tricky request—especially if it’s our first conversation.

What is decidedly easier for me to address—and relevant to the “typical project” question—are the common scenarios in which people are prompted to consider content strategy and what organizations hope to (and do!) achieve with content strategy efforts.

So c’mon—let’s channel Olivia Newton-John and get typical! (Confession: I was going to link to her “Physical” video, but I watched it for the first time in years and got too uncomfortable. No wonder my parents wouldn’t let me watch early MTV. Look it up and re-watch at your own risk.)

Client drivers and triggers for content strategy

Something has changed, or is about to change at my organization.

  • We are in the process of transitioning to a new content management system. Now would be a great time to clean up our content so we don’t have to migrate ‘junk’ to the new platform.
  • We’ve reorganized. Now, it’s not exactly clear how our new teams are supposed to work together to create, publish, and maintain content.
  • I just took a new position and content is on my plate. Now, it’s really difficult for me to take care of my day-to-day editorial updates and be smart about planning for the future.
  • Our analytics and/or user research is showing us that our consumers aren’t finding/getting what they need. Now would be a great time to turn that around and impact our quarterly numbers. 

My organization realized the complexity of our content.

  • We have and/or produce a LOT of content … in seven different languages.
  • There are a ton of people involved in requesting, creating, publishing, and maintaining our content (e.g., CMS users, geographic regional teams, product teams, etc.).
  • Many different audiences interact with our content—and they have varying needs, objectives, and expectations.

Desired effects of content strategy

If everything goes according to plan, with content strategy we will have …

  • An actionable, achievable plan to prepare for, develop, or implement a content strategy. We’ll be able to take this plan, execute it, and evolve it over time.
  • Quality content that meets user needs and achieves business objectives. Quality means it’s relevant, accurate, consistent, clear, purposeful, and generally awesome.
  • Clarity on:
  • What kinds of content is needed (topics, types, sources, etc.) and what message(s) content needs to communicate to our audience(s).
  • How content is prioritized, organized, formatted, and displayed.
  • What processes, tools, and human resources are required for content initiatives to launch successfully and be maintained over time.
  • How key decisions about content and content strategy are made—including how those changes are initiated and communicated.

Actual content strategy results

  • Progress is made (which sets the stage for saving or making money). Sometimes, having an external (neutral) expert come in to talk about content strategy is all it takes to move things forward. For organizations that are set up to implement content strategy, but have no time or resources available to actually develop the overall strategy—getting the plan is the necessary push. In any scenario, this resulting progress is usually the stuff that makes the day-to-day content team happiest.
  • Money is saved. Yes. It’s true. Content strategy work can help companies save money. For example, a content strategy effort might examine and evaluate content that is licensed. If any of this purchased content is duplicative, or doesn’t meet criteria for the user and business—that’s an opportunity to save money by discontinuing the license for irrelevant content. Or, in an organization that uses a blend of online and telephone support for products, having a clearly defined strategy for the information best served online can help reduce call volume (and therefore operating expenses). These are the kinds of results that senior leaders really care about.
  • Time is spent efficiently (and more money is saved). When there is a clear understanding of who does what to which content and when, everyone involved in content processes can be more efficient. Consider this—a product manager wants to feature details on a new product on the company website. She spends time locating the company editorial style guide, and agonizes over the wording for the new web content. She then spends time tracking down who might be able to help with this request (via a manager, IT, or marketing). This is time the product manager could be using to do what she does best—improving the product. Additionally, this is time spent doing the work someone else is already paid to do—the website editor, who can create and publish the content in a quarter of the time the product manager spent. A solid content workflow strategy can uncover and improve a situation like this. Frankly, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t get excited about this type of result.
  • Consumers are satisfied (and money is made). Offering content that’s relevant, easily found, and used for its intended purpose goes a long way toward audience satisfaction. Satisfied content consumers are the ones that contribute to your goals as an organization. They buy your widget. They donate money. They subscribe to your service. They recommend you to friends. Happy customers always equal happy business stakeholders. Everybody wins!

Even though there are unique circumstances at almost any organization, there are definitely some universal themes for content strategy needs and outcomes. These themes are about as “typical” as it gets when it comes to our project work at Brain Traffic.